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The U.S. vs. John Lennon (2006)
not bad at all
Lennon was always ready to grab the next wave. His and Yoko's publicity stunts for "peace" were condescendingly dismissed as silly, naive and even trivializing, but Lennon was dead serious about promoting the idea of peace: "We're selling it like soap, you know?" And in 1969, there was indeed something liberating and comforting in seeing those billboards (and, in 1971, hearing that song): "WAR IS OVER! (If you want it.) Happy Christmas from John and Yoko." "The U.S. vs. John Lennon" touches on all of this, and a dose of idealism may be helpful at this deeply cynical moment in American history. (One can't help wondering what a 66-year-old Lennon would have made of Geraldo Rivera, interviewed here, as a Fox News correspondent.) When journalist Carl Bernstein speaks of politically motivated surveillance campaigns and refers to the Nixon administration as "a rogue presidency, a criminal presidency," you know the parallels the filmmakers intend you to draw.
Gore Vidal puts it bluntly. Lennon sang about love and peace and "represented life, and that is admirable," he says. "And Mr. Nixon, and Mr. Bush, represent death. And that is a bad thing."
The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off (2004)
In September 2003 36-year-old Jonny Kennedy died. He had a terrible genetic condition called Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) - which meant that his skin literally fell off at the slightest touch, leaving his body covered in agonising sores and leading to a final fight against skin cancer. In his last months Jonny decided to work with filmmaker Patrick Collerton to document his life and death, and the result was a film, first broadcast in March, that was an uplifting, confounding and provocatively humorous story of a singular man. Not shying away from the grim reality of EB, the film was also a celebration of a life lived to the full. Produced and directed by Patrick Collerton and first shown in March 2004 The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off has become the most talked about documentary of that year. It attracted nearly five million viewers and after the screening the public donated over half a million pounds to Jonny's charity, DEBRA. A Jonny Kennedy Memorial Fund has been set up to raise another half a million with the aim of ensuring that Jonny Kennedy left a one million pound legacy.
Top of the class!
Why can't other arts programming be made to the same calibre as this? I must admit that I didn't really expect much from another list show but after seeing the calibre of the interviewees on the trailer (John Hurt, Robert Lindsay etc) I thought I'd give it a go and was very pleasantly surprised. Apart from being beautifully shot there was a real integrity to both the pool of dramas included, covering over 40s years and every one a bona fide classic and to the people chosen to talk on them. Reading like a who's who of TV, for practically every drama in the list we heard first hand about the production from either the makers or the stars or more often than not both. What's more for once the programme makes didn't assume that the audience at home was stupid it was intelligent as well as entertaining. I didn't agree with all the rankings and some of my more obscure favourites were no way to be seen on the list but then again there were some dramas I had never heard of and will now definitely seek out. You're never going make a list that pleases everyone all the time but as an inspiring reference for the great drama that's made for TV you could do much worse than check this out.